Page last updated at 14:58 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 15:58 UK

New operation for injured soldier

Ben Parkinson
The paratrooper arrived home in Doncaster on Good Friday

A paratrooper who suffered massive injuries in Afghanistan has undergone more surgery in his bid to walk again.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, 23, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, lost both legs and suffered head injuries in a landmine explosion in 2006.

He had managed to walk on artificial legs, but was still suffering problems with his balance and mobility.

He spent time in intensive care after undergoing an operation to realign his spine and is now recovering at home.

Mr Parkinson was described as "quite poorly" immediately after the operation, at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, north-west London.

It's been an unbelievable success

Diane Dernie, mother

But within 10 days of the surgery the member of 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery was discharged from the hospital and arrived home on Good Friday.

His mother Diane Dernie, 50, said her son's choice to have the operation and try to improve his walking ability had paid off.

"It's been an unbelievable success," she said. "

He now has a 100% normal spinal profile, which will make a big difference.

"The doctors always said they wouldn't do it unless they could give him a normal profile, and the risk was quite small.

"I suppose really the biggest risk was that the operation wouldn't achieve what Ben wanted it to do."

When Mr Parkinson was initially hurt, doctors realised between two and four vertebrae had been affected in the explosion.

Staying in army

But his condition was so serious they were unable to repair the damage, leaving him with severe curvature of the spine.

Although he will not be able to try walking again for some time, he has now been discharged from the Ministry of Defence's Headley Court rehabilitation centre for the next four months.

At the end of that period experts will be able to assess what long-term difference the operation on his spine has made and decide how to continue his rehabilitation.

But Mrs Dernie said the difference in her son was already apparent.

"Before, because his back was bent, he was always tipping himself forward," she said.

"Now he can sit up, he can balance and he can sit in an ordinary chair."

She said Mr Parkinson, who was told last December that he will be allowed to stay in the army rather than be discharged, had treated learning to walk as a personal challenge.


Soldier's spine surgery a success

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